Three high-profile receivers were either out or ailing at today's practice. The lower profile receiver making the most of his opportunity: Dominique Zeigler. The lanky Zeigler usually is good for at least one jaw-dropping catch in practice. Today he had several, including a nice toe-tapper in the back of the end zone off a strong pass from David Carr.
The receivers who were out were Michael Crabtree, who strained his neck Wednesday afternoon (he is day to day), Brandon Jones, who continues to recover from a hamstring strain, and Jason Hill, who was trying to fight through his own hamstring injury Thursday morning. Crabtree, Josh Morgan and Ted Ginn are locks to make the final roster and rookie Kyle Williams is being eyed as the team's punt returner. That leaves perhaps one spot for which Hill, Jones and Zeigler are competing.
Zeigler is well-liked by the coaching staff because he has become very precise in his routes after four offseasons under position coach Jerry Sullivan. He also has a laid-back, personable demeanor that makes him popular in the locker room. Zeigler spent time on the practice squad the previous three seasons and is no longer eligible. That's fine, Zeigler said. He's not aiming for the practice squad anyway. "Those days are over," he said.
Zeigler was in a similar position last season when a high-ankle sprain in the final preseason game sunk his chances of landing on the active roster. He said he didn't feel comfortable until the final two weeks of the season. The 6-3, 185-pound Zeigler has become a favorite of quarterbacks because of his precise routes and because in jump-ball situations, Zeigler typically wins.
He competed in both the high jump and long jump in college, once soaring to 7-feet, 2-inches in the high jump. Opposing defensive backs can attest to his hops. What's unique about Zeigler is that he has coupled that leaping ability with superb body control. Said Zeigler: "I feel that any time the ball is in the air, no one's going to out-jump me."
Keep an eye on defensive lineman Khalif Mitchell (No. 60) on Sunday. He plays behind both Isaac Sopoaga and Ray McDonald at left defensive end, meaning that he'll essentially be in Kentwan Balmer's spot against the Colts. Mitchell played nose tackle last season. He'll still see some action there, but he's mostly been at end this summer. At 6-5, it's a more natural position for him and it's one he played at East Carolina.
Odds and Ends
Defensive end Will Tukuafu's tryout with the 49ers is back on. Tukuafu is expected to round out the defensive line now that the team has a roster exemption for Balmer. Tukuafu must first pass a physical. He was on his way to Santa Clara yesterday when the 49ers cancelled.
Fullback Brit Miller went down with what the team says is a right ankle strain. After being checked out by trainers, Miller was on his feet but did not return to action. In my opinion, Miller is in the Top 5 as far as players who have had solid training camps thus far.
Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said his starters would play one or two series in Indianapolis depending on the duration of that first series.
Both Jones and Travis LaBoy (concussion) were working out with trainers on an adjacent field today, an indication both will return to practice soon. It's hard to see either playing Sunday, however.
Parys Haralson sat out the morning session with general soreness. Diyral Briggs and Manny Lawson were the starters at outside linebacker.
Alex Smith and Ted Ginn seem to be in a rhythm. Smith hit Ginn on a nice, 50-yard pass on one side of the field, then found him in the near corner of the end zone on the other side during team drills.
-- Matt Barrows